McKenzie Bowden gets it. Video: Owen Milne
How To Enjoy Surfing More
Slow down for a second.
Ed note: the following is the third installment of our new weekly email chain called the Stab Fwd. If you're into it, subscribe here.
Not counting the few waves I rode in darkness, eight weeks of Coronavirus confinement marked the longest time I’ve spent out of the water for as long as I can remember.
This wasn’t altogether a bad thing. The time I would have otherwise spent pursuing any and all movements of the ocean suddenly became available for other purposes. I read books I’d been meaning to read. I took a few online classes. I gave nagging injuries time to heal, then targeted them with strengthening exercises.
Best of all, it enabled me to think about surfing without the convoluted impulses of doing it every day.
As my moment of freedom approached, I took time to write some things down — things that appeared to me only when my perspective was pulled back, things that I wanted to continue to be aware of when those day to day impulses came surging back in.
Those things boiled down to two main goals: Slow down and mix things up.
Slowing down means to appreciate it more. I have a tendency to catch a lot of waves and I hate sitting still. Non-surfing me figured I should chill the fuck out. Breathe for a minute, look around. Smile and let someone else go on a good one. There is no need to rush.
And mixing things up, that’s a big one. I quickly fall into routines. One good surf on a board can translate to a month on that board. One fun session at a wave can lead to an almost blinding obsession with that wave. And weeks can be burnt doing the same few maneuvers in the same exact ways.
Doesn’t that limit the experience, even cheapen it?
Non-surfing me said so. But after ten days back in the water, all I want to do is try a million airs on my 5’0” at that fun little beach break down the way.
Work in progress, I guess. I feel like I’ve been mildly successful at slowing down and I do have a new board on the way. We’ll get there, you and I. The only reason I’m sharing this is because I hope it gives a nudge to slow down, mix things up, see things in your own different way. We can all use a little more spark.
Surfing is beautiful, so let’s make fun of it.
But don’t take it from us. Take it from Jason Stevenson, whose initials do not coincide with one of the world’s best surfboard brands by chance. The TLDR is that you need more volume. This was the runaway champion of our most-viewed stories this week — because, somewhere deep down, we all know that we shouldn’t be riding the same dims as Julian Wilson but to admit that would a sign of potentially catastrophic weakness.
The more you learn about the mechanics of the ocean, the more likely you are to lead yourself to better waves. Is this article going to immediately put you onto something next swell? Nah. But it’s a good read, and at least you can condescendingly drop some knowledge on your buddies on the way to the beach, causing the conversation to halt as they ponder it and leaving PNAU’s Embrace from Jordy Smith’s part in Stranger Than Fiction to awkwardly fill the silence.
I was obsessed with the ...Lost movies when I was growing up. At one point, I thought it would be sick to get the Mayhem logo tattooed above my belly button and I’m pretty sure that’s why it’s illegal for 14-year-olds to get tattoos. Anyway, the man makes wonderful surfboards and you can’t go wrong with names like this.
When it’s 6 - 8 foot with tubes exploding up and down a large playing field, the lineup can typically be separated into two distinct groups. Those who own Jet Skis and get an absurd amount of good waves. And those who fight the current for three hours, take sets on the head, get four bad waves and maybe luck into a decent one (me). Such was the case at many spots in Australia last swell. Care to argue about it?
With all due apologies to our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, this is what I think surfing should feel like in the summer — fun, loose, far from serious. An edit like this is polarizing, which is cool. Some people dig it and others consider it a prayer to satan. If you fall into the latter group, then re-watch Stab In The Dark with Mick Fanning. It’s just that good.
Highlight: Trevor Moran
In case you missed last week, I’m using this space to feature surf photographers. These people use their time and talent to create images that you and I adore, and most of them are out of work right now. Give Trevor’s website a look if you’re craving a wall hanger. For now, here’s a photo he likes and some words on why he likes it.
Note: He told me I could edit this for brevity, but I think it’s a fantastic look inside the mind of the modern surf photographer. Great read.
Pipeline is probably the easiest place in the world to get an average photo, and one of the hardest in the world to get a good photo. Season after season, shoulder to shoulder with other shooters, swimming from the channel or hiking up to the Pill Box, trekking the same paths that have been well worn since the 60’s, where else can you go? The sky perhaps? No, that has been covered, and covered very well by the best of the best lensman from multiple generations via heli and drone and probably balloon at some point. There are no unique angles, but I feel there are still unique moments to be captured.
Across the surfing world there are plenty of opportunities to get a new and different angle, but when shooting Pipeline my goal shifts away from trying to nail a fresh perspective, but rather to try to tell a more complete story.
Don’t just isolate the hero surfer on the bomb set wave setting up for a gaping barrel, but include some story about what it’s like for everyone else in the lineup. The local crew out the back positioning for the third wave of the set, the groms caught a little inside that just made it under the first wave, the familiar feel of the spray needling the backs of those who are out there just to get one wave. Don’t forget the photographer in perfect position for the shot that used to go on glossy pull out posters, the friend on a causal paddle back out whose hoots are reverberating inside the tube, and the bodyboarding beauties that have continuously intimidated me since my youth. Sprinkle in a few of the familiar houses that dot the shoreline and serve as lineup spots, a sky so clear I can feel my nose turning to leather, and the greenery that leads to Ka’ena Point to remind everyone that this is one of the few remaining places in the world that has yet to be clear cut and paved over.
Try to tell a story. Even though there are plenty of things I’d change if I have the chance to shoot this again, knowing it was a tiny slice of time as seen by a tourist flying a piece of plastic with a camera on it, I feel like this photo stood out from the rest I shot recently and that’s why I like it. Far from perfect, but a step in the right direction towards the goal of telling a more complete story. Nathan Florence, and a few other people enjoying Pipeline, December 2019.
So, you been getting waves?
When we started, I opened up the email [email protected] to anything you want to throw my way. I can’t promise everything will get run, of course. But when a person whose name is literally Chance King gets a wave like this at Pipe, you run it no question. Shoutout to all the Chance Kings and Queens out there this weekend. May the odds be forever in your favor.
One last thing:
If you surf every day, then you surf every day.